Living Like Our Mothers and Grandmothers

Living in The Past

Why is it that our grandparents lived so much more frugal than us? For starters, they didn’t have monthly bills like cell phones, internet, or digital cable with a receiver in every room. It’s funny to see how all these monthly bills have become “necessities”. It wasn’t too long ago when these things simply didn’t exist. Go back just 30 years and you’ll find most people just had their water, electric, and phone.

They also lived a “greener life” where single use or disposable products did not exist. My grandmother or great grandmother would flip over in her grave if she saw me using a paper towel to wipe up a spill on the floor and then throw it out. Or if she saw me pay $5 for a 24 pack of bottled water. Most of what we buy now-a-days are single use products that our grandmothers wouldn’t even dream of using because they seem wasteful.

Growing up I remember my grandmother talking to me over and over again about not being wasteful; that went for money as well as household products.

To honor our mothers, grandmothers and all past generations of mothers, here is a list to remind us of how we all used to live.  They’re ideas on how to get back to living the frugal lifestyle of generations past. Not only will you smile at the memories of Grandma that will surely pop up, but also at the less expensive ways to live.

Cloth Diapers. It worked for me! I know my mother used these on me and my younger brother when we were babies. The idea may disgust many parents but continually paying $20 a week for the first two to three years of a baby’s life until they are potty trained is the epitome of wastefulness. Disposable diapers can run a parent $2,000-$3,000 over the course of a child’s life until they are potty trained. In contrast cloth diapers generally run about half to a quarter of that cost. The cloth diapers of today are not like the cotton nappies our mothers used. Today’s cloth diapers are made with super-absorbent and durable microfibers that no longer gap in the front or leak easily. Safety pin closures have been replaced with snaps or Velcro and come in a range of colors and patterns.

Clothes Lines. Forget energy star rated appliances. Drying your clothes on a clothes line or dryer rack is the most energy efficient you can get. These are not only for your delicates but for every article of clothing. And who doesn’t love the smell of fresh air dried clothes? Just walk down the dryer sheet aisle to see how many companies are trying to reproduce that smell chemically in their products.  The winter months might be a pain, but just think how much you could save if you did it half the year when the weather is warmer.

Food for thought. My great grandmother believed vinegar was sent from heaven. She used it for almost everything. She used it to condition her hair, clean clothes, she even mixed it with water to create her own glass and surface cleaner. The truth is before we had Windex, disinfecting wipes, or toilet bowl cleaner our mothers and grandmothers had to find ways to clean their homes. Food items like vinegar and many others became the back bone of the household cleaners. My mom used to clean our metal pots and pans with baking soda and water and then polish them to their original shine with olive oil. Alternative uses for food could easily be its own article, the information is that extensive. You can read more about cleaning with food here.

Get a library card. Two weeks ago my husband and I went to see a movie. The cost of two tickets, a large soda and junior mints blew me away, not to mention the added cost of the babysitter. I just want to see a movie, not make a down payment on a house! The same goes with books. A new best seller at Barnes and Noble will run you about the same amount of money. Buying books and movies gets expensive. Take a trip to your local library, and you’ll find all of the latest books and movies available free of charge. Now that’s affordable!

Save that jar. I love spaghetti. Not only for its yummy taste but it means I get to empty a mason jar filled with spaghetti sauce. Mason jars are useful in so many ways. They save me from having to buy Tupperware, drinking glasses, and coin jars. Plus they can be great for kitschy decorating. You probably have one or two mason jars in your house already. Spaghetti sauce, pickles, mayonnaise, baby food and jam are foods typically packaged in mason jars. Not only are these eco friendly but they are also better for your health. Plastic food containers sometimes contain a potentially harmful chemical called Bisphenol A (BPA), a compound that mimics the natural female hormone estrogen. Tests on rats have found that BPA can promote the growth of human breast cancer cell growth as well as decrease sperm count.

Paper or Plastic. This one makes my grandmother angry every time. Any time she seems someone using a paper towel, paper plate, paper napkin, or anything else that is a onetime use paper product she makes a comment about being wasteful. And she should, paper makes up one third of landfill waste. Opt for cloth napkins and re-usable plastic plates and cups instead of disposable paper tableware. Switching to cloth saves money and the environment.

Our moms and grandmothers did not grow up in a time of such disposable or single use products. They re-used everything they could. No scrap of food was thrown away (it helped clean the house and feed the house pets), if a pair of pants got a rip in the knee they patched them instead of throwing them away, jars were reused for other purposes, and clothes were dried by the sun. Reusing products allows you to buy less and less often.

Living more like our mothers not only saves money but is also better for the environment and our health.

So save more than money. Save the earth and your health too.

Keeping Money in Your Pocket,

Nancy Patterson

 
 
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